Three pioneers in American photography

Posted by Chris Wray on Jul 13, 2009 in art |

The three photographers Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer irrevocably charted a new course in photography during the mid-twentieth century. Collectively, these photographers pushed classical photography beyond its traditional representational boundaries to one of pure abstraction and metaphor. I had the pleasure of recently seeing At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer, a featured exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). According to SMoCA, this is the first full comparative exhibition of these three pioneers. All self-taught, Callahan, Siskind, and Sommer elevated photography to fine art, using seminal techniques and creative compositions to achieve remarkably fine art.

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

I found the exhibition, consisting of some 150 high quality prints, to be an intimate and meditative experience. While many of the works I had seen reproduced in art history books, several were heretofore unseen; on loan from private collections. A favorite work of my wife and mine is entitled Paracelsus. This gelatin silver print was created without a camera, using a synthetic negative. Listen to a detailed audio description of Paracelsus from the Norton Simon Museum.

At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer had been held over through August 9, 2009. If you’re in the Scottsdale area, this show is well worth the price of admission. A large format catalogue of beautiful reproductions is available from the SMoCA Store.

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